BY ELLEN KOESTER
On every floor in a Drake residence hall there is a person that is free to answer questions or provide a ear for students. Resident assistants, or RAs, are there to help their residents in any way they are needed.
One of the RAs’ many duties is to make their residents feel connected at Drake and like they are part of the campus.
Lorissa Lieurance, the assistant dean of students and director of residence life, said she has heard students say that they would have transfered, had it not been for their RAs.
“If the University did not have RAs, they would lose the student connection, that peer-to-peer connection of being able to have someone to go to for guidance or support,” Lieurance said. “RAs serve as the liaison between students and the University.”
Sophomore Goodwin-Kirk resident Allison Odenthal said she sees RAs as a source of support.
“I think an RA’s purpose is to provide a safe harbor,” Odenthal said. “If you have a problem, there’s always someone you can talk to and get help from.”
RAs are there not only as friends and mentors, but as someone to keep the community safe as well.
“I loved my RA last year,” sophomore Terrance Montgomery said. “I talked to her for hours each week about basically everything.”
While Montgomery made an effort to get to know his RA, others don’t have the time or feel like it is a necessity to get to know them.
Sophomore Madeline Cramer, who lived on the same floor as Montgomery last year, didn’t get to know her RA.
“Whenever I saw her it was more of a courtesy hi,” Cramer said. “She didn’t really seem like she had an interest to get to know me and I felt the same.”
Lieurance specified that while RAs are not meant to act as enforcers, they do have valuable information.
Part of an RA’s responsibilities is to report violations to his or her supervisor. The RAs themselves are not there to discipline students, but rather to keep them safe.
“Without the RAs, the community standards may not be maintained,” Lieurance said.
While they have to slip into an authoritative role, RAs are there to serve their residents.
“They are the individuals who try to get on the personal level with students,” Lieurance said. “That puts them in a position where students want to meet with them and talk about their challenges or celebrate their successes.”
Because of this, Lieurance looks for applicants who are excited to work with their peers. Many of those who apply choose to do so “because they’re passionate about the position and passionate about serving Drake,” Lieurance said.
Any students who have this passion should be on the look out for applications, which are available on Nov. 2 and due near the end of January.
“We want the (residents) to see themselves in our staff, so I hire people with a variety of different skills and attributes. I have introverts and extroverts on staff,” Lieurance said.
RAs can fill just about any role a resident needs them to, whether that is to be a mentor, friend, supporter or simply to be someone with all the answers.
“Genuinely, I think that RAs make a lasting impression on students,” Lieurance said. “They are the heart of how we serve.”